The Communications committee monitors all types of communications at All Saints and Ascension to assure that we keep the congregation informed, connected with each other, and connected with the community. However in recent years, major emphasis has been concentrated on establishing and improving our digital and internet connectivity. This is especially the case with adapting to COVID-19 challenges of not being able to gather in person for worship and church events. The following is a list of items that have recently been addressed:
The church maintains a website which is frequently updated. It is intended to provide up-to-date information to parishioners, as well as general church info for anyone accessing the site via the worldwide web. Statistics collected show that activity on the site steadily increases every year. We estimate that actual engagement from parishioners is minimal. Parishioners mostly use the website to get updated worship/event schedules, and to retrieve weekly digital bulletins. Most of the site activity is likely due to community, national, and international visits. Online visitors are driven to the site via search engines, church email blasts, Facebook, the Diocese of Missouri, etc.
Email blasts are used to send weekly, special, and news messages to those parishioners who have registered their email addresses with the church. We also have a separate email distribution list of “friends” of the church who are sent messages of coming events, funerals, special announcements, etc. Our email blasts are particularly useful when we are not able to gather in person, but it only reaches those who have access to internet and email service. Emails can be configured for linking parishioners to online Zoom worship services, to directing to Facebook livestreaming services, to retrieving weekly bulletins, for perfomining limited surveys, and to connect with other related websites and media. We use a subscribed email marketing service to compose and distribute emails.
We have attracted numerous people to our Facebook page who like to network via social media. This outlet draws a considerable amount of attention from people who “Like”, “Follow”, and “Share” on our page content. Common Christian values are shared with parishioners, Episcopalians, Christians, and friends worldwide. Only a fraction of our congregation frequents our Facebook page, so the reach extends far beyond our church family. It is useful in stimulating engagement from non-parishioners, and for promoting community outreach (i.e. Trunk or Treat). It is also used as a platform for livestreaming (Facebook Live) and recording our worship services and compline evening prayers.
We began using Zoom video conferencing to conduct virtual worship services during the COVID-19 pandemic when we were unable to safely gather in person. We discovered that it attracted several parishioners to participate in Sunday services that were not able to attend church prior to the pandemic. It also opened the doors for worship participation nationwide and worldwide. It is effective because it is not only limited to those who have access to the internet, but it allows others to listen and talk in via their telephones. It is an excellent backup for when we must temporarily fast from communal worship. It is also used by church organizations to meet even when we do gather otherwise in person. It also allows us to provide “live” surveying and voting, but the responses are limited to only those devices connected via internet. We use a subscribed upgraded version of Zoom that is also made available for Bible Study, and for meetings for church organizations. Since we do not publicly publish Zoom access codes to avoid disruptive “Zoom bombing”, broader worship participation by some potential visitors has been limited.
Our renovated sanctuary is equipped to livestream church services. When we gather in person, this equipment allows us to offer hybrid worship. That is, we can also broadcast the worship service simultaneously (in real time). Unlike Zoom, those who are not able to attend, and who do not have access to the internet, will not be able to participate. However, a video recording of the livestream is captured on Facebook and is available for later viewing on various devices. Hopefully, the recording can be taken to the homebound for viewing.
Outdoor Digital Sign
Our outdoor digital display is seen by hundreds of people in vehicles and by pedestrians who travel daily along busy Lucas and Hunt Rd. We provide worship times, event announcements, greetings for special visitors, and other short messages. When possible, we often change the brief messages displayed to keep the attention of repeat viewers, especially when we are meeting in person. Based on responses to announcements displayed, we feel that the sign is an effective way to engage parishioners and the public.
Hard copies of weekly bulletins are distributed every week at Sunday Eucharist when we are meeting in person. It has been the most popular means of communicating detailed information and schedules to the congregation for many years. A digital copy is now posted weekly online which is particulary helpful when we conduct virtual service via Zoom. The main purpose of the Sunday bulletin is to provide the order of service for those participating in worship. But it also includes church announcements, relevant information, and info on events and dates. For homebound parishioners who are not able to routinely attend church services, hard copy bulletins are mailed to them via US mail every week.
Verbal Sunday Announcements
Sunday verbal announcements provided by the rector and the senior warden during worship service are highly effective in reinforcing email announcements and Sunday bulletin announcements. Verbal messages only reach people who attend worship service in person (or via livestream or video recording) for a given Sunday.
Automated Phone Messages
We use recorded messages to dial and announce time-sensitive alerts (emergency messages, church closings, funeral arrangements, etc.) to everyone’s phone. It is the MOST effective means that we have for getting the word out because practically every parishioner has a phone. But there is a service charge for each message sent, so it is only used sparingly.
Due to expense and limited staffing resources, US mail is another way of communicating to the congregation that we use sparingly. When used, it is typically for sending important special written announcements. However, it is very effective for sending out messages because the message reaches practically every parishioner. It has moderate results for garnering written responses.
The church directory is updated and published once a year to improve intra-church communications. It contains the listing of all our parishioners. It provides addresses, phone numbers, and email addresses for easy reference. For those unable to pick up their copy in person, directories are mailed to them.
Packets have been prepared to hand out to visitors to our church. It includes an orientation brochure that explains our purpose and history. It also includes a registration card, pencil, and a few gift trinkets for adults and children. It is mostly offered to our guest as a gesture of goodwill, but we hope that it will generate some interest in returning to worship with us.
In the spring of 2020 as the pandemic was only in its second month, two of our parishioners were brainstroming ideas about social media. They were wondering how social media could enhance our online presence. They felt that a strategic online presence could lead to growth of our church community.
On May 7th, a meeting was called. They invited the rector and our online website and email manager to join the conversation. The discussion led to more attention and management of our Facebook page which in turn measurably improved our online presence and engagement.
Shortly thereafter, with a the generous donation from an anonomous source, an upgraded Zoom account was established for the church. As a result, the congregation was able to meet once again on Sunday mornings—virtually! Suddenly we had a congregation that not only had St. Louis area participants, but we got regular attendance on Sunday from as far away as Pueto Rico! Even better, it allowed a few homebound parishioners who had not been able to physically attend church services to participate from the comfort of their own homes.
During the summer of 2021, when the restrictions on quarentines were relaxed, we returned to our newly renovated church sanctuary for in-person Sunday morning Eucharist. The Zoom worship was suspended, so we once again faced the problem of how to serve those who could not physically join us in person on Sunday mornings. Once again an anounymous source donated new media equipment to allow us to livestream our services worldwide via Facebook. We now could provide a “hybrid” worship–in person and online viewing simultaneously! During temporary periods when we have to temporarily close the church to protect everyone from the spread of the virus, we simply convert back to Zoom worship.